Bill Elliott returns to the place where it all began ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (October 31, 2001) - When Bill Elliott suits up for the Pop Secret 400 this Sunday, he may be thinking about how far he's come since his first career Winston Cup start, which...
Bill Elliott returns to the place where it all began
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (October 31, 2001) - When Bill Elliott suits up for the Pop Secret 400 this Sunday, he may be thinking about how far he's come since his first career Winston Cup start, which he made in Rockingham more than 25 years ago.
Elliott qualified 34th and finished 33rd in his first event, Feb. 29, 1976, earning a $640 paycheck in the Carolina 500. Since then, Elliott has won 50 poles, 40 races and more than $26 million. He and his No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T are currently 15th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings.
Despite all of his achievements, Elliott is returning to Rockingham, an ever-changing track that has been proved challenging for the veteran as of late. Although he has found victory lane three times at the 1.017-mile track, in his last five appearances he has finished below his average finishing spot of 13th. In February's race, Elliott and the No. 9 team did their best to get the car to loosen up, and took a 23rd place finish in their second race with Evernham Motorsports. Elliott will be making his 44th career visit to the track this weekend, hoping he and his No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T can carve another victory into the history books at "the Rock."
Bill Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T
What is your outlook on returning to Rockingham this weekend?
"One more down and three to go. It's always fun to go back to Atlanta at the end of the season because it's like my home track. But, at this point in the season we just want this to be over. The guys are getting frustrated from being on the road so much. Even though we seem to be racing okay, stupid things just keep happening.
We weren't that great at Rockingham earlier this year. We started 14th and finished somewhere in the middle. Hopefully we'll be a little better. We've learned a lot about these Dodges during the year, and it should help us be a little better. We're going to take what we learned at Darlington and try to use it here. We know we're going to get a lot of wear on the tires, so we're going to be working on that. Tires were really a problem at Phoenix last weekend, and they're definitely going to be a problem in New Hampshire. I might have to run chains."
You tested at Homestead last week. How do you feel about what you've
"We learned a lot at Homestead and I think it really helped us to test there. We ran pretty good in the race trim but not as good in the qualifying trim. Hopefully we can take some of the positive things from the test and apply it to our qualifying set up. We just want to get a good race in down in the warm weather before we go to Atlanta and New Hampshire."
You've had success at Rockingham in the past. Is that going to help you
"Even though you've had success at a track like Rockingham, you can't really expect the same things to happen each time you come back. Everything changes there so much. It changes year-to-year and even race-to-race. You're always having to adapt to the things that have changed since the last race."
Bill Elliott By the Numbers
* This will be Elliott's 44th career start at Rockingham. Since his first start at the track - his first Winston Cup Series start ever - in February of 1976, Elliott has amassed three wins, two poles, 11 top fives, 20 top 10s and over $900,000 in earnings at Rockingham. His most recent victory at the track came in the spring race of 1992 - his 25th visit to the track and 35th career victory. He earned both of his pole positions at Rockingham in 1988.
* Elliott has battled some tough luck at Rockingham in his last five appearances, finishing below his average finish of 13th at the track. In February's race Elliott struggled, trying to get the car to loosen up. His 14th place start ended as a 23rd place finish by day's end.
* Last week in Phoenix, Elliott started in the sixth position and appeared to be on his way to a strong finish until he met trouble on his first pit stop. Elliott was forced to return immediately to the pits a second time as the car left the pits without the required number of lugnuts on the left front tire. The No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T was shuffled to the back of the pack but Elliott managed to work back into the top 20 until engine trouble cost him track position in the closing laps. Elliott's 27th place finish didn't cost him any positions in the points race. He remains in 15th place.
* Bill Elliott has been in the top 15 for about two-thirds of the season, and within the top 20 for the entire year. His average start is 13th and his average finish is 19th.
* With $2,806,364 in official earnings this year, Elliott has broken his career-high yearly earnings record of $2,580,823 from last year. He is third in total winnings for all Dodge drivers in 2001 (behind Ward Burton and Sterling Marlin). After finishing eighth at Indy, Elliott became the first Dodge driver in history to break the $2 million earnings mark in a single season. He is on pace to break $3 million before the season's end.